Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice

December 21st at 11;28 AM (EST), the tilt of the earth's axis reaches the farthest away from the sun (for the northern hemisphere) and the point of least solar radiation for the year. This is called the winter solstice and marks the beginning of winter. It is also the shortest day of the year. Sunrise today comes at 8:01 AM and sunset occurs at 5:06 PM, giving us just 9 hours and 5 minutes of sunlight in Ann Arbor. After this point, the days get longer and the weather, eventually, starts to warm up. From this point, we can start looking forward to spring and a new golf season.



 A Fall Prescribed Burn


Friday, December 1, 2017

November Weather Summary

November 2017 had an average temperature of 39.9 degrees, down almost 15 degrees from October. The high temperature was 65.2 (November 28th!) and the lowest recorded temperature was 18.8, (Nov 10th.) Fifteen days had low temperatures below freezing while one day (again, the 10th) never got above 32 degrees.

We got 3.96 inches of rain at Leslie Park's weather station during November. The rain fell on 11 different days, with the largest amount coming on the 18th (1.59 inches.) Eight days recorded more than a tenth of an inch. That brings the total so far to 35.65 inches for 2017.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Catching up

The fall has been busy at the golf courses for the City of Ann Arbor. I want to apologize for not keeping up with blogging more. I will make up for it by offering up a quick summary of some of the projects we have been doing.

New Practice Green for Leslie Park

At the beginning of September, we stripped this area of rough behind #1 tee.

We added 60 tons of sand mixed with top soil.

Shaped it and seeded it with bentgrass. This will be an additional practice putting green. 

Five days later, the grass was starting to germinate.

Two weeks after seeding, it looked like this. We have now mowed it three times at 0.400 inch. In the spring, we will slowly bring it down to our normal green cutting height of 0.125 inch.

Level and expand tees at Leslie Park

Some of the smaller tees are getting noticeably mounded in the center. This comes from golfers taking shots from the same spots and maintenance filling the divots with sand and seed. After 20 years, the center of the tee may have grown by 6 or 12 inches. 

This forward tee on #9 was stripped of sod and leveled.

Sod from a different tee was laid out on the level surface.

It looks like we will only get to the two forward tees on #9, the white tee on #18 and the right side tee on #7 this year.

Rock wall on #7 tee at Leslie Park

As part of the leveling of #7 tee at Leslie, we are also trying to expand the usable teeing area on the back of this tee. In order to accomplish this, we are adding a rock wall, which will allow us to build up the back corner of the tee.

Geo-textile fabric is laid out behind the rocks to keep erosion to a minimum.

Cart paths and rock walls at Huron Hills

New cart paths were added to #13, 14 and 15 at Huron Hills this year. They tie into the path that was put in last year on #12. In order to keep to contours of the holes as close to original as possible and still have a fairly flat path, rock walls were also put in here.

#13 at Huron.

#15 at Huron.

Fertilizing Oak by #5 at Leslie

This oak on the right side of #5 fairway has been declining in recent years. Last year, we pruned all of the dead wood out of the canopy and de-compacted the soil around the tree.

We had a leaf tissue analysis done this year and found out that there were some micro-nutrients the tree was lacking. Micro-nutrients are nutrients aside from the big three of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.  Here the arborists are preparing to inject the nutrients into the tree's bark.

A close-up view of the system of tubes and injection sites.

Greens aerification and top-dressing.

During aerification, I would always break tines on the front, left corner of #2 green at Leslie. After doing so again this year, I decided to dig up the rock that we kept hitting.

This little guy will love it's new home in the rock wall on #7 tee.

October 2017 Weather Summary

October 2017 had an average temperature of 55.8 degrees, down just under 10 degrees from September. The high temperature was 84.7 (October 3rd) and the lowest recorded temperature was 30.6, (Oct 26th  which was also the only day during the month that the temperature dipped below the freezing point.)

We got 5.58 inches of rain at Leslie Park's weather station during October. The rain fell on 15 different days, with the largest amount coming on the 11th (1.64 inches.) Nine  days recorded more than a tenth of an inch. That brings the total so far to 37.33 inches for 2017.

Friday, October 6, 2017

September 2017 Weather Summary

Dr. Kevin Frank from Michigan State University said that it seemed as if August and September switched places this year. I couldn't agree more. September had five days with high temperatures above 90 degrees. The rest of 2017 had only one, as June 12th got to 90.0 degrees exactly. The highest temperature at Leslie Park was 91.9 (September 22nd,) which was in the middle of a stretch of seven days with high temperatures above 85 degrees and had all five of the 90 degree-plus days. The lowest temperature was 41.5 (10th,) while the average was 64.6 degrees.

We got 1.34 inches of rain at Leslie Park's weather station during September while Huron received less than one inch. The hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico kept high pressure and clear skies above Michigan for most of the month. The rain fell on six different days, with the largest amount coming on the 4th (0.77 inches.) The next highest rainfall was 0.32 inches, just three days later. That meant just a quarter of an inch of rain fell from September 8th through the end of the month. That week of hot temperatures also fell in the last half of the month, so these factors combined to make the grass think it was mid-summer. Only 2 days recorded more than a tenth of an inch. That brings the total so far to 26.11 inches for 2017.

As I write this on October 6th, we have gotten 0.27 inches of rain today, so we hope we have turned the corner on the dry weather.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fence near Oak Cliff

When the Oak Cliff apartments went in along #8 at Leslie Park, we knew that the increase in non-golfers in that area would be significant. We decided that a more apparent delineation of the golf course boundary was needed. We opted for a fence similar to the one we put on #12, along Traver Road.

Posts going in.

The fence ended up being nearly 900 feet long.

In this shot taken from the fairway looking back, you can see the Oak Cliff apartment complex.

From the tee, the fence is well hidden.

It does provide a tangible out of bounds, as well as a reminder to stay off the golf course, if you are not playing.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Baby Turtles

Yesterday, one of the Natural Area Preservation crew noticed that the turtle eggs they had moved to our turtle nesting mounds (Read more HERE) were hatching. Here are some pictures of the little guys.

And a couple of videos.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

August 2017 Weather Summary

August 2017 had an average temperature of 68.6 degrees, down about 4 degrees from July. The high temperature was 87.6 (August 2nd) and the lowest recorded temperature was 46.7 (25th.)

We got 2.58 inches of rain at Leslie Park's weather station during August. The rain fell on eight different days, with the largest amount coming on the 17th (0.80 inches.) Five days recorded more than a tenth of an inch. That brings the total so far to 24.77 inches for 2017.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Barn Painting

When I first started at the City of Ann Arbor in 2009, one of the first things I noticed was the beautiful 100-plus-year-old barn. Unfortunately,the exterior had not been painted in the memory of anyone working at the course.

I set about trying to find someone who would be willing and able to undertake this task. I contacted historic barn preservation groups and farmers. I called painting companies and general contractors. I either got no response or an estimate that was well into five figures. I did find one barn restoration expert. He looked at the barn and had many things he wanted to do, in addition to painting the barn.  His cost estimate was not spectacularly high. All looked good for us to finally get the barn painted. When the city contacted him to get his tax information, he started complaining about the government regulations and refused to give any tax information for billing purposes. Another dead end.

Finally, the barn was in such a state that we could not ignore it anymore and the City Park Operations crew had to paint it. They rented a lift and bought 110 gallons of paint. The results were striking.

The barn in 2009

The barn today.

The first coat goes on the east side.

You can see the barn back in 2014.

From near #10 green in 2017.

This is a picture of one of the bat houses we mounted on the barn in 2012.

The south side (toward #17 tee) of the barn was worn the most.

I think this was taken in 2011.

The flag looks crooked due to the perspective of the camera. I hope.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

July 2017 Weather Summary

At the end of last month's weather summary, I said that the month of June was boring. I promise to never say anything like that again.

July 2017 had an average temperature of 72.2 degrees, up about 3 degrees from June. The high temperature was 88.8 (July 19th) and the lowest recorded temperature was 50.3 (July 25th.)

What really gets interesting is when you start to look at the rain we got in July. We got 4.13 inches of rain, which is just above the 3.47 inches we have gotten in the last seven years. Unfortunately, 98% of that came within one seven day period, between July 7 and July 13. You might also remember that this is right before the City Championship at Leslie Park. Then the precipitation stopped. Technically, we got 0.06 inches of rain for the rest of the month, but that came over three different days. Eighteen days with appreciable rainfall. There were only 3 days where the high temperature was below 80 degrees during that time span, and one of those days was 79.2 degrees. The maximum amount of rain on one day was 2.07 inches. (July 7th.) There were seven total days of rain and two of those were over an inch. July 10th saw 1.01 inches fall.

Average windspeed was 1.1 mph. The highest recorded sustained windspeed was 33 mph, on the 12th, although these numbers are suspect, because we had an electrical surge at the barn during one of the storms. Along with frying the COM ports on the irrigation computer, it did something to the weather station. Now it only seems to record windspeed and humidity during daylight hours. I tried changing the battery, but that did not work, so must contact support at Davis instruments for some help with this issue.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Turtle Eggs and Sand Piles

When the Traver Creek Project was started, one of the most interesting parts was the turtle stipulation. In order to begin the creek renovation, a permit was submitted to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ.) To satisfy the MDEQ permit of the project, turtles and other herptofauna were relocated from the two inline detention basins (AKA ponds on holes #12 and #17) on Traver Creek to the pond on #8. There are at least four large snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) and numerous painted turtles(Chrysemys picta) in Traver Creek and there was concern over what would happen to these turtles during and after the project was completed. To help them after the project, four sand piles were created for the turtles to use as nesting areas. 

Last month, a painted turtle nest was discovered at Argo Canoe Livery. The nest was located in a high traffic area and the probability of successful hatching was low, so Natural Area Preservation (NAP) was called in to move the nest to a better location.

Argo and NAP staff locate the eggs.

The eggs after excavation. It is very important to have the eggs remain in the same orientation for proper development.

The eggs were moved to one of the sand piles at Leslie Park and covered with a predator exclusion screen. This makes it difficult for raccoons and other animals to dig up and eat the eggs.

While NAP was working, they discovered a snapping turtle nest in the same pile. The covered that nest with a predator exclusion screen, as well.

NAP also puts signs out so that people know what the screens are for and to leave them where they are.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

June 2017 Weather Summary

The high temperature for the June was 90.0 degrees. (June 12th) while the low was 45.2 (8th.)   The average temperature was 69.2 degrees, an almost 12 degree jump from May.

There were 9 days of rain recorded by the weather station. The monthly total was 1.57 inches. Only three days saw more than a tenth of an inch of rain and the 22nd had the most rainfall with 0.70 inches. Leslie Park has had 18.17 inches of precipitation in 2017.

Average windspeed was 2.1 mph. The highest recorded sustained windspeed was 27 mph, on the 10th. 

I do these weather summaries for historical purposes, not for the interest they generate. That being said, this might be one of the most boring weather summaries. No days below freezing, only one day above 90 degrees. Only 3 days of real rain (anything under a tenth of an inch in the summer is basically not replenishing the water in the soil.) No rain events over an inch. In the category of most boring, this month takes the prize. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you. I am not complaining. I will take boring over extremes, any month.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dr. Leslie's Orchard

Note: This is an blog post I first published in 2012 and again in 2014. It has been updated, but I also feel like it is good information to keep putting out there.

Before Doctor Leslie donated the land for Leslie Park Golf Course, he and his wife had been running the land as a farm. On this farm, he planted wheat, corn and other annual crops, but a large portion of the land was devoted to orchards. They had cherries, pears and apples, as well as blueberries and raspberries.  The area where 5, 6, 7 and 8 are now located was predominately pears, apples and cherries. A small portion of this orchard was retained when the course was built. It was originally a 12 row by 12 row section, with a few trees outside of this square. That would have been 144 trees.

The Orchard looking toward #8 green from #6 fairway.

When I started with the City of Ann Arbor, there were less than 100 of these trees left. Through the previous 40 plus years, the trees naturally died out. Since the purpose of Leslie Park was to be a golf course and not an orchard, this was not a priority. The life expectancy of these trees is not overly long, and since they were planted around the time of World War II or before, it became clear to me that if nothing was done, we would lose the entire orchard. Since this was an integral part of the strategy for playing holes 6 and 8, as well as an homage to the former use of the land, we decided to start replanting the orchard.

Planting trees in 2012.

The first step was to decide what to plant. The "holes" in the orchard were filled in with a mixture of Bartlett pears, Comice pears, Honeycrisp apples and Red Delicious apples. The apples were added to bring about some of the historical feel to the orchard, even though this part did not have any apples. We started slowly on the 8 fairway side. This was to get a feel for how to proceed and give us some experience with the different trees. In 2010, we planted 16 apple and pear trees. We soon discovered that the deer love the apple trees but leave the pears pretty much alone. We started to experiment with deer deterrents and finally settled on cages. The following year, we planted another 18 pears and apples, along with 12 cherry trees.

The cherry trees are added to the northern section of the orchard, near #7 green. In 2009, there were 6 cherries here and stumps for 30 more. Over the past seven years, 6 of these old cherries have died. Unfortunately, the last one does not appear to have survived the harsh winter.

The two old cherry trees still do not have leaves.

Only one original cherry tree remains.

This pear has seen better days.

This is an apple tree we planted in 2014.

Since 2009, we have planted 48 apple and pear trees, as well as some cherry trees. Only 71 of the original pear trees are still alive. The gaps in the old  orchard are now almost filled. When that happens, we will only be replacing the old trees when they die.
As a golf course manager, you have to stay one step ahead. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is right now."